Until a couple of decades ago unmarried cohabitation was seen as a deviant behavior and one that was characteristically associated with college students and people who have undergone divorce or bereavement. For rest of the society, cohabitation was deemed normal only under legal married framework. However the idea of viewing cohabitation necessarily within married setup has turned obsolete and out of phase with postmodern social trends, preferences as well as necessity.
Today life encompasses various elements such as work hours, money, social relational bindings, leisure time and sex roles that spawn a set of new factors making cohabitation a preferred option than marriage (Clarkberg, 1995). It is important to state here that any attempt to identify cohabitation as a sexual deviation or desire of wantonness would be essentially misleading and ignoring the new economic, social, cultural and behavioral realities that are instrumental in defining emerging social environment.
Under the compulsions, demands and pressures of life to move fast and stay composed, cohabitation has become norm rather than an exception. Cohabitation and changing social attitude Before 1970 although cohabitation was not entirely absent, but it was a silent issue that made many families uncomfortable and unwilling to face it. Further, as the period from 1950-1970 was the golden of marriages, with most of couples marrying young, cohabitation did not attract any attention due to its minor and supposedly insignificant presence as compared to greater number of married relations being consummated (Booth and Crouter, 2002).
But in the last two decades the trends have heavily changed, in fact, rather reversed and number of unmarried cohabitation has risen almost by phenomenal levels to threaten the age-old pattern of marriage and family setup. The percentage of cohabitation rose from 10 percent in 1960s to 50 percent in 1990-1994 before the couples decided to marry. Moreover, by 1995 almost 60 percent of first relations/unions started in the form of cohabitation which shows cohabitation becoming widely accepted way of living, or at least starting a relation (Smock, 2000). Reasons behind rise in cohabitation
Various studies and researches, as cited by Clarkberg (1995) drive home the point that nature of goals pursued and their success rate vary considerably in married and cohabitation relationships. There are significant differences in the amount of time spent on work, leisure time pursued, financial gains obtained, and even goals conceived and pursued in married and cohabitation relations. Reports suggest that married women spend major proportion of their time in household activities than single women, thus raising the standards of living and wealth accumulation capacity of a couple living in cohabitation by several notches.
Increase in cohabitation is also a reflection in changing social attitudes, cultural change and rise of individual pursuance of goals. In this scheme, marriage exerts a regressive pull and slows down the potential of growth that men and women could obtain working and living independently. Sexual revolution is another major cause behind revolution in cohabitation relationships, as suggested by Smock (2000). Earlier there was a social stigma attached with premarital sex. But as the liberation movement ended this stigma, more and more couples moved in cohabitation relations for the degree of independence and latitude of movement it offers.
Here two people are free to live together, enjoy each other partnership and association and continue to pursue their independent goals in life. Although it can be argued that cohabitation relations may lead to exploitation of female partners, especially in case of separation when the woman may not be legally entitled to inherit the property or get any alimony rights, yet looking at the concept behind cohabitation, it contravenes this argument. Cohabitation is founded on the concept of independent co-existence and association therefore there is no such dependency that is usually a feature of married relations.
Women gain more economic privileges, independence, ability to create their own wealth and delay the decision of motherhood until they are mentally and economically prepared for that. Cohabitation gives them the salient power to exert their role in society while being in constructive relationship. Further, over 60 % of couples who start to cohabitate end up marrying each other. Hence it is very much evident that cohabitation is becoming an essential precursor and determinant to successful married life that would ultimately make society economically and structurally more stable.
Conclusion With the changing economic and social paradigms, the stigma on unmarried cohabitation has been lifted and it has become a generally accepted and valid alternative to married form of cohabitation. Unmarried cohabitation offers some unique advantages to couples that include with greater economic and personal freedom, chances to pursue their independent goals, and create their successful individual niches in the society that are cogent reasons why more and more number of couples are opting for it instead of a settled married form of living.
Indeed cohabitation is the next social and family revolution that is already taking shape since past decade and soon it would be joined by millions of more couple.
Booth A and Crouter A. C. 2002. Just Living Together: Implications of Cohabitation on Families, Children, and Social Policy: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. : Mahwah, NJ. Clarkberg, Marin. 1995. Attitudes, Values and Entrance into Cohabitational Versus Marital Unions: Social Forces. Volume: 74. Issue: 2. Page Number: 610 Smock, P. J. Cohabitation In The United States: An Appraisal of Research Themes, Findings, and Implications: Annual Review of Sociology. 2000. PageSample Essay of AssignmentExpert.com